What is a Carotid Aneurysm?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A carotid aneurysm is an aneurysm in one of the carotid arteries which supplies the neck and head with oxygenated blood. An aneurysm in this location is quite rare, but can become a serious medical issue for the patient. Treatment for is generally managed by a vascular specialist, who may work with other people such as a cardiologist to deliver the best care for the patient. In an emergency, a general surgeon may conduct work on the aneurysm if a vascular surgeon is not available for the procedure.

A carotid aneurysm happens when the wall of a blood vessel becomes weakened and starts to dilate.
A carotid aneurysm happens when the wall of a blood vessel becomes weakened and starts to dilate.

Aneurysms happen when the wall of a blood vessel becomes weakened and starts to dilate. The weakened area balloons, causing the side of the vessel to thin, and there is a risk that the aneurysm could rupture, potentially causing serious medical complications. In the case of a carotid aneurysm, the weakening occurs in one of the two carotid arteries which run along either side of the neck.

The carotid artery, which is located in the neck, supplies the brain with oxygenated blood.
The carotid artery, which is located in the neck, supplies the brain with oxygenated blood.

Age is a common risk factor for aneurysms in general. These aneurysms may also be caused by trauma, as from a knife injury, or by infection, including infection which has traveled from another area of the body, such as a heart valve. Patients with this condition risk further damage if they have high blood pressure. The aneurysm can also lead to blood clotting, which can in turn put the patient at a risk for strokes caused by interruptions in the brain's blood supply.

Aneurysms occur when the wall of a blood vessel becomes weakened and begins to dilate.
Aneurysms occur when the wall of a blood vessel becomes weakened and begins to dilate.

Sometimes a carotid aneurysm is not recognized until it has ruptured or caused a problem like a stroke. In other instances, it may be identified during a medical exam. Once a doctor finds the weakened area of the artery, medical imaging studies may be ordered to see how large the aneurysm is. For a patient with a small carotid aneurysm, the best treatment may be no treatment, paired with monitoring in case the area of blood vessel dilation gets larger.

People with high blood pressure have an increased risk of experiencing an aneurysm.
People with high blood pressure have an increased risk of experiencing an aneurysm.

If clotting is occurring, anticlotting agents may be administered to break up the clots and prevent additional clot formation. Blood pressure medication can also be used to manage a carotid aneurysm by lowering blood pressure to reduce stress on the vessel. In cases where the aneurysm is at risk of rupture, surgical techniques can be used to repair it, including endovascular techniques in which the procedure is done entirely inside the artery with the use of catheters inserted into the vessel.

There are two carotid arteries.
There are two carotid arteries.
Both the left and right common carotid arteries split to form the internal and external carotid arteries.
Both the left and right common carotid arteries split to form the internal and external carotid arteries.
A general surgeon may conduct work on a carotid aneurysm.
A general surgeon may conduct work on a carotid aneurysm.
A stroke from a carotid aneurysm is often recognized due to slurred speech, confusion and drooping of one side of the face.
A stroke from a carotid aneurysm is often recognized due to slurred speech, confusion and drooping of one side of the face.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

anon941679

I am a survivor of a ruptured carotid aneurysm. It blew when I was 34 weeks pregnant. I had suffered symptoms of brain aneurysm since young childhood. After reading about them as a young woman, I did research on my symptoms and took it to my doctor (this was after my after my first pregnancy and my symptoms were worse). His response was that I was too young to have an aneurysm and if I had one I would not know it. How wrong he was. I did know it, and because he was uninformed and closed minded, my third baby and I nearly died.

My brother also had one, but because of my history his doctors took initiative when his eye turned inward and he suffered extreme head pain. He had his aneurysm surgery about two years after mine. We have congenital aneurysms. The only way to be diagnosed is to have your own money to pay for testing or really fabulous medical insurance. The way health care is set up these days is not to heal us but to treat our symptoms until we die.

PinkLady4

A friend of mine had a carotid aneurysm, but neither herself or her doctor apparently knew about it. She was struck suddenly with a stroke and was in the hospital and a rehab center for some time. She has therapy for months, but hasn't regained her ability to speak. She is also physically unstable.

I'm just wondering if there are any signs that an aneurysm is present, so it can be monitored. Apparently, nothing at all was noticed in my friend's case.

I think that if it had been somehow noticed and treated, she would be in a lot better shape.

ajvician

My sister had an internal carotid aneurysm. (I am pretty sure that is what it was called.) They treated hers with a procedure called coiling. It changed her personality. She loses patience more readily and is tired a lot.

I talk with her often and she has had problems with sleeping and adjusting to people hovering over her. She knows it is something that had to be done, but it seems that the side effects will take some time to overcome.

rebelgurl28

My mom had a carotid artery aneurysm. She was also on medication to control her high blood pressure.

She ended up having to have carotid surgery. Even though it was a scary thing for her to go through I believe it definitely prolonged her life.

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